Amanda Pipes from Davey's Calgary, Alberta, office talks about the benefits of our forests, how you can help keep them healthy and the benefits of teaching others about trees.
In this episode we cover:
To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code.
To learn more about National Forest Week in Canada, go to the Canadian Institute of Forestry's website.
To learn more about the benefits of trees' shade, read our blog, The Benefit of Shade Trees - Nature's Sunscreen.
To learn more about drought tree care, read our blog, What Should I Do with My Trees in a Drought?
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Doug Oster: Welcome to the Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each episode showcases one of Davey's Certified Arborists sharing advice with everyone about caring for your trees and landscapes. We'll talk about everything from introduced pests, seasonal tree care, deer damage, how to make your trees thrive, and much more.
Tune in every Thursday to learn more because here at the Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer. I'm joined this week by Amanda Pipes. She is a district manager for the Davey Tree Expert Company in Calgary, Canada. Today, we're talking about Canada's National Forest Week. Welcome to the show, Amanda.
Amanda Pipes: Thank you.
Doug: Let's talk about your time in the woods before we start talking about nuts and bolts and how good trees are.
Amanda: I've been very fortunate to grow up where I have in Calgary. We are about an hour drive from the mountains and the forests. Growing up, we spent summers out in the cabin exploring, digging around in the forest floor. Then, in the wintertime, still staying around in those mountains and forests doing skiing, cross country downhill, a lot of time spent outside exploring, which was great. We have a very big backyard in terms of that for being a decent-sized city as well.
Doug: Let's start talking about national forest week. We all know trees are good, but how about some specifics?
Amanda: I think one of the biggest factors is the oxygen that these forests help us produce and absorb that carbon dioxide. It keeps the earth cool. The absorbing of the CO2, plants need that for photosynthesis as well, but they store that in the wood and the soil and help produce what we need to breathe and live. I think that is probably one of the biggest factors of keeping our forests going.
Doug: I don't think people understand the amount of wildlife and pollinators and insects that are supported by these forests and by trees in general.
Amanda: Agreed, yes. It's not just us that benefit from it. The food, the shelter, the housing, the entire biodiversity really of the forest is something that shouldn't be overlooked. Again, it's not just benefit to us. People are starting to see evidence of that a little bit more. Especially here in Western Canada, we've been really affected by the forest fires and seeing all the animals and insects and everything like that, that push out of there because of those fires. They're losing their homes and it's being more visible now, I think to people, and how important these forests actually are.
Doug: In your part of the country, you're also dealing with the fires or they're coming up from the US [inaudible 00:03:10]
Amanda: In BC, the province to the west of us, they have had a terrible year. They've had a terrible few years, this year being exceptionally bad with the drought. We haven't seen rain since a week or two ago. We get the carryover from that, but also in Northern Alberta, we have quite a dense forest, a lot of fires up there, Grand Prairie, that kind of area. We definitely are seeing that we're not as bad in numbers of fires as BC, but again, seeing the devastation even driving through the mountains, you can't really describe it. It's very sad.
Doug: Let's talk a little bit about the drought where you're at and how that affects your job.
Amanda: We are seeing some weird things go on with our trees here, even in the city. The drought stress and the way that the trees are combating that, we had a very early spring, a lackluster spring in terms of moisture. We saw early bud development on trees and then a hard frost and just no rain.
This year actually too, we started to exhibit early fall. In the end of July, the trees were changing. They were getting rid of those leaves and you couldn't water enough. Like I said, we didn't really get rain here until the beginning of August. Now it seems like we're getting spring in August, it's cooler and everything like that. It's been a very unpredictable year in terms of that.
Doug: What can you do in a drought? I know if you had smaller trees, I guess you could water them. If you've got a big, giant oak tree, do you just let it go to its fall? [unintelligible 00:04:57]
Amanda: I guess that would depend on the setting. You could do a slow-release fertilizer to help combat in times of drought stress, which would be beneficial if you have means to do that. That can be challenging sometimes depending on how many trees, but anything you can do like that. Where we are, everybody has started really utilizing those rain barrels too, to account, to just try and get some extra water collection when we can.
Then just trying to put on water even into the fall. We get a little guilty up here with our colder temperatures. Everybody stops thinking about the outside around this time of year, but that ground is not frozen yet, those trees still need some available nutrients, if we can get it to them. That's all about I think that you can do.
Doug: When you're growing whatever it is, whether it's a vegetable garden, flower garden, or this beautiful forest of trees, there's nothing worse than drought conditions. It's so depressing for people that love plants.
Amanda: Agreed. Especially, again, up here in Canada, it takes so long to grow anything up here. We do have a short growing season, and in Calgary, we're a little bit different than the rest of the country, we get Chinooks. We're dealing with that pressure change in the winter where we can go from minus 20, and then the next day it's plus 10. Everything like that accounts to a lot of the stresses and the trees and the drought. That snow that we get in the wintertime doesn't really do much for our trees in the springtime either. It is about watering and monitoring, but I would agree, it's very sad to see just no rain for two months.
Doug: Well, let's switch things around. Let's go back to our forest and talk about flood control.
Amanda: Flood control. As we were discussing, that's been big for you guys out on the east there, that those forests helps absorb that amount of flash flood that you'll get into the soil, reducing in soil loss erosion and things like that which is important for the parts of the world that are getting mass amounts of flooding right now.
Doug: Besides cleaning the air, trees can also clean the soil, right?
Amanda: Yes, that's correct. Yes, that's beneficial when you get the toxins in the soil, the forest floor will break that down and take those toxins out of that soil, prevent leaching.
Doug: Where you're at-- I've been talking to arborists, we just did a couple of podcasts about favorite trees. Tell me a little bit about what you like to plant in Calgary. What are a couple of your favorites?
Amanda: Couple of my favorites. I am very partial to the Siberian larch. I think that is one of the most unique trees that grow here in our climate. We don't get a lot of options. There is something to be said for that fall color of the larch when they lose their needles. There's a nice trail here in Kananaskis. It's one of our national parks. That large trail, it's just the most golden color around this time of year. That's one of my favorite trees.
Another one would have to be a Linden, really coming around to those. They're a great bee tractor, good pollinator. We've had a lot of success growing those here in the last couple of years. Like I said, growing up here, you see your poplars, your Manitoba Maples, and our Elms. Other than that for unique trees, those are probably my two favorite.
Doug: I had a friend that worked as a gardener at a Amusement Park, and they had a ton of lindens. She said, "When they bloomed, the fragrance is just almost overwhelming."
Amanda: Yes, it is. The fragrance and the sound, because like I said, those bees, they go to town on that tree. You can sit like a couple of feet from them and you could just feel that tree vibrating. It's a pretty unique tree. Like I said, what's going on with the bees right now, we're encouraging a lot of people to plant those.
Doug: With the changes in weather conditions that you've seen over the past few years, is it changing your choices for what can be planted or because you don't have as many choices in that climate, does it stay the same?
Amanda: We've seen some changes over the last couple of years, for sure. We actually did switch zones here in Calgary. We were getting away with the planting, planting some of the trees that you can see across Canada. Maybe they won't be the biggest here compared to somewhere in Ontario, but they're surviving.
This year, actually, I was at a client's house, and one of the only oaks that grows here is the burr oak. They actually planted a pin oak and they've had success with it for three seasons now. That was pretty interesting to see. Like I said, I've only really seen bur oaks here around Calgary in the area. We are getting a little bit warmer, I think. I think the biggest struggle here for us is our Chinooks. A lot of things don't survive because of that.
Doug: What is that? What is the Chinooks?
Amanda: The Chinooks is a pressure change that comes from the mountains. I believe there's only three other places in the world that exhibit Chinooks. That pressure change, it happens during the winter. Like I said, it would be about minus 20, and then the next day, it's 6 degrees, you're wearing a t-shirt, shoveling your walk. A lot of people, unfortunately, that aren't from here, exhibit migraines because of that. Being from here, I'm fortunate to not do that but it's interesting. It confuses a lot of people that come to visit in the wintertime. That's for sure.
Doug: It might confuse some of the trees too.
Amanda: Very much so. Yes. Trees and plant, yes. Even insects and animals, everything. You got to be a little strong to survive in Calgary, I think.
Doug: [laughs] One of my favorite things to talk about is how you got into your job. Why is this the right thing for you?
Amanda: It took a while to get where I was going. Landscaping is something that I did all my life, being a kid, cutting grass, and everything like that. I decided to pursue my journeyman in horticulture ticket. I felt that was the best way to get my hands on every kind of industry within horticulture and landscape. I realized what I lacked was a lot of knowledge in trees.
In 2014, I took a job with Davey Tree here as a plant healthcare technician, doing Tree ID, disease management, and things like that. Halfway through that, my first year in September, we had a really bad snowstorm here. It snowed for two days, all the leaves were still on the trees. It was a very wet, heavy snow. It snapped almost all of our trees in the city. I just was thinking, "This is devastating. It's going to take a long time for these canopies to recover. These are old trees, it takes a long time to grow here."
Really got me focused on wanting to stay with abor culture and learn more. Fortunately, for me, found a good resource in Davey to do that, continuing education or everything like that, they're very big on. Finishing my hort ticket and then going into more focusing on the ISA start of things and becoming an arborist that way.
Worked on crew for a couple years, and then I was fortunate enough to get the position I am in now where I get to go and educate people on how to take care of their trees. That's a very important thing, and it's been a backbone presence in our company since John Davey himself. It's not that people don't care about trees. They just don't know how to take care of them. We really like to focus in on that. They're just, I don't know, they're a little bit magic, I think.
Doug: Tell me a little bit about your job when you do go out to educate people on their trees. I assume every day is different in a way. In other ways, you might see the same disease or the same pest coming through at the same time. What's a day like for you.
Amanda: It is ever-changing, going to different properties, whether that's commercial in the city, out in the city, on an acreage, people are dealing with a lot of more pests. Like I said, I think people are really starting to realize the value in their trees and want to start doing something about that before it's too late. We get some clients that they don't want to learn more. They just want to know that their property is in good hands as well, so that can change.
Sometimes we go and we show people how to prune or what to look for. Monitoring being the most important part, taking a look at your trees and noticing changes because sometimes those changes you notice a little too late. That varies every day for me as something different. Then working with my staff, a very talented group of arborists that they do some things out there where they teach me things every day. Every day is different and that's big for me.
Doug: How often should a homeowner that has a lot of trees on their property have an arborist do a safety check? How often should that be done?
Amanda: I would say annually, especially if they're not really attentive in doing that. There's no harm in having somebody come out. Once you're doing that annually, again, those changes that you might not notice right off the hop, you just have more eyes on those trees. I think annually, especially if you have a lot of trees, and especially if you have a lot of trees of the same species because we are seeing that a lot around in our acreage area, and the prairies that surround Calgary going to the east, everybody has planted the same type of trees. Once they get something going on with them, you're potentially talking about losing all of your trees, depending on what's going on.
Doug: Well, that's been a common note that has been sung with most of the arborists that I talked to about not planting all the same things, by mixing it up. Talk a little bit about that and the importance of that and the fun part of that too. You don't want all the same thing.
Amanda: Yes, that's right. Again, here, with few options, it's costly to put trees in the ground and you want them to succeed. I think people get kind of lost in what we can just grow and be very successful and get afraid from going into a different type of tree. Again, yes, you need that mix, you need that variety because one pest to wipe out your whole trees is like you can be on a property for 20 years and remove all your trees, what are you going to do? I think that education, it stems from us but it also stems from nursery growers and things like that, that we need to be pushing when there's mass installs, a diversity within that planting.
Doug: All right. Amanda, I'm going to finish up with one more question. Just tell me a little bit about the satisfaction that you get out of spending time with customers, educating them, but more importantly, telling them, "Hey, believe it or not, that tree is going to be okay if we do this, this and this."
Amanda: Yes, I think that's it. When I first started doing this and meeting clients, I'll never forget, I had this one client where she called me to the property and said she thinks that her tree is terminally ill. The way that people talk about their trees and love their trees and they just don't know. If there's something that we can do to educate them and show them how to take care of it and that we can potentially correct some of the issues that are going wrong.
I think that's where the satisfaction comes from is being able to sustain what people have and also having them look to the future. Maybe they have an old tree on an old property, let's talk about starting to grow a new tree, trying to take down that tree eventually. I think that's where just the overall people are just really happy to learn, I find, and are thankful for the help in that.
Doug: All right. Amanda, thanks so much for all the information. Enjoy Canada's National Forest Week.
Amanda: Thanks, Doug.
Doug: You're headed out for a little vacation, huh?
Amanda: I am, yes. Lucky enough to go to Tofino out on Vancouver Island all next week. We'll be playing in those forests. It is supposed to pour rain, but after the summer that we had here, I'm not even mad about it. It should be awesome up there. See some banana slugs. I don't know if you guys have those out there, but it should be a good time.
Doug: All right, thanks again.
Amanda: Thanks, Doug. I appreciate it.
Doug: Banana slugs. Huh? I've got enough trouble in my garden with just the little slugs. Tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Hey, do me a favor. Subscribe to the podcast. It's fun. Can't wait for next week as we're talking about salt-tolerant trees, some good ideas for planting now before winter arrives in some tough places too. As always, we like to remind you on the Talking Trees podcast, trees are the answer.
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